The NBA, Especially The Lakers, Is a Mess
In all the years I’ve covered the National Basketball Association I’ve never seen anything like this.
Neither has anyone else.
Prolonged labor negotiations occurred in 1998 but when they ended there wasn’t turmoil.
This time, with new rules guiding teams about money, there was utter chaos. Trades and free agent signings were announced every hour all weekend and into the new week.
The Lakers thought they had acquired Chris Paul, then found out the deal wasn’t approved. Then the Clippers thought they had acquired the outstanding young point guard until learning they hadn’t offered enough in the eyes of the New Orleans franchise which happens to be run by commissioner David Stern, who has put himself in a terrible position by holding both jobs
In the last few days there’s been talk of the Clippers putting together another package for Paul. Most NBA authorities I know believe the Clippers have better trade assets than the Lakers. The Clippers, who insisted they wouldn’t trade Eric Gordon, seem to be softening that stance.
The Clippers put in the best bid for veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who was released by the New York Knicks with the NBA’s new amnesty clause. (They have to pay him but it doesn’t count against their salary cap). Dallas got rid of forward Richard Jefferson the same way.
Billups said he’ll retire rather than play for the Clippers, but sources tell me he’d give up a $14 million paycheck for this season by doing that. So he might reconsider. Also, players claimed in the amnesty process can’t be traded in the same season.
I wish I was making up this stuff but unfortunately it’s all true. This is even goofier than the negotiations which held up the season for two months.
Now we have DeAndre Jordan, hardly a star but a young center with shot-blocking ability, getting a four-year, $40 million offer sheet by the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers matched it to keep him so the desperate Warriors settled for Kwayme Brown (remember him?) the former Laker flop,
The most interest locally is the Lakers’ strange decision to trade Lamar Odom to Dallas. It’s strange if that’s all they’re doing but it may be explained by another move they’ll make. At this writing they had done nothing but subtract a key player.
Odom said he asked for a trade after he was included in the one with New Orleans which fell through. He said he was disrespected and expected to be kept up with that negotiation. I agree that a player who has helped the Lakers win championships deserves the courtesy of being told he may be dealt and why.
Kobe Bryant said he doesn’t like losing Odom, especially to a rival in the same conference. The Lakers, of course, are trying to position themselves to acquire center Dwight Howard, but if he stays in Orlando the Lakers have quite simply made their team worse.
The Lakers did sign eight-year NBA veteran Jason Kapono, formerly of UCLA. He ranks sixth on the all-time NBA list of three-point shooters, so he should help as a small forward.
But they need a point guard. Derek Fisher is 37 and Shannon Brown became a free agent who left for Phoenix.
Dallas lost Tyson Chandler, their fine center who made a decision to join the New York Knicks for a $50 million contract. I know Dirk Nowitzki was the NBA Finals MVP but it’s my opinion the Mavericks wouldn’t be able to defend their NBA championship without Chandler, their key man in the league’s best zone defense.
Oh, hold that thought The next day the Lakers give them Odom for no players in return. Now maybe the Mavericks can repeat.
However this madness ends I hope the Lakers won’t be counting on immature and injury-prone Andrew Bynum to carry them to a championship,
Pau Gasol was also unhappy he was included in the deal for Paul that didn’t go through. So the Lakers don’t have Odom anymore and they have an unhappy Gasol. What a way to start the season.
GM Mitch Kupchak defends trading Odom and being unable to retain Shannon Brown by saying: “We were eliminated in the second playoff round. It’s not as if we’re breaking up a championship team.”
If you’re looking for optimism here’s a thought. Eleven of the Lakers’ first 15 games will be played at home. But, balancing the thought, remember that Bynum is suspended for the first five games.